Monday, October 5, 2015

The US has its Dr. Strangelove, but Russians learned to love Bulgakov, their black magician par excellence

In his Faustian novel, The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov performes the triumph as the high point of his “black magic” at the climax of the “Satan’s Great Ball,” which simulanteusly serves as his judgment of the Soviet system, his ultimate revenge, and his cursing spell. There, Satan (Woland who contains in him Wotan, Odin, Agent Volant, and a mixture of Waldamars and Vladimirs, rulers of the world) rejuvenates and resurrects himself by drinking blood of a Russian aristocract from a Soviet skull. 

The baron betrayed his class and became a snitch or spy working for the Bolsheviks. He is killed on the orders of Satan, respectively on the decision of Bulgakov himself. During the Satanic ritual, the finale of Bulgakov’s schole, taking on the form of a ball of all the devils and sinners and a black mass, the blood of the traitor to his own class is poured into the skull of a Soviet writer and official, whose helpless death was to prefigure and pre-eneact the similar later death of the regime itself. In the novel, the death of the official reduced to utter helplessness and his sacrifice to the dark powers evoked by Bulgakov through his writing too was so arranged that he was beheaded as if by one of his own, by a Komsomol female proletarian. 

Satan condemns the beheaded Soviet writer to “sinking into non-being”—into the entrails and guts of Satan himself, who thereby drinks to his own health—as if to Being itself. The interesting feature of this feat and magic spell performed by Bulgakov was that so many people are still led to tie Bulgakov to some notion of piety and, if not piety, then at least to something funnily entertaining, not seeing that he tried, and might have succeeded, in pulling out his vengeful triumph, a voodoo-like curse on the regime itself by resorting to nothing less than the dark powers and even Satan himself, so to speak, thus putting under the spell and power of this wish not only the system, but even so many people along with it. 

Of course, in doing this, Bulgakov made the greatest possible use of the atheistic prejudices of the people, respectively their spiritual naivete, if not their advanced literal illiteracy, combined with a facile belief that if it is always someone else “to whom the bell rings.” Bulgakov’s own wish backed up by all the black magic he could muster, however, remains well discernible—to use and evoke the powers, prejudices and blind spots of the Soviet regime against itself, let it become an instrument of its own demise, let it be (self)consumed by Non-being, let it pass utterly into the hands of the powers very unholy (for only those could be strong enough to defeat it in this Bulgakovian “solution”) and then reduce it to an empty, dumb, lifeless skull, which was then to serve Satan his drink of blood. This utter, complete emptying of the Soviet system off its life force, spirit and soul then translated into Bulgakov’s perfect triumph, victory, and revenge. The novel was written between 1928 and 1940 when Bulgakov died, but it was published in its fullest form only in 1989, when the Soviet system died at the hands of its own leaders who, by that time, became Bulgakov’s ghosts, converts and fans.

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